A Lesson from James and John
What kind of spirit motivates people to do what they do? To answer that question, Luke, wrote of Jesus’ journey with this disciples to Jerusalem. Along the road the weary travellers asked to stay in a Samaritan village, but they were rebuffed. Why? Because the Samaritans saw that the group was on their way to Jerusalem. Now, there had been 500 years of contention between Jews and Samaritans over where one should worship. It had begun long before in the time of Zerubbabel when the Samaritans had tried to undermine the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. So there was a long-standing ethnic feud that prompted the Samaritan’s reaction to Jesus and his disciples. Their sin was a mere lack of hospitality to travel worn strangers. What would you have done if you walked in their sandals?
The Right Spirit bears Good Fruit
Jesus was well aware of the prejudices of his time and was ready to move on. But John and James response was “shall we call down fire from heaven!” No wonder they were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder.” Jesus chided them for their inappropriate and unmeasured response to the offence. And he told them that the spirit that was motivating this “nuclear” response was the “wrong” spirit. Paul expressed eloquently the fruits of the “right” spirit in writing to the Galatians. The Spirit of God would produce unselfish concern for others, inner peace, and patience. It would over look the slights of others, and would not buy into the prejudices and cultural biases of the day. This is a message that all of Jesus’ followers need to consider, especially in our present fractious society.
Avoid a Hypocritical Spirit
The spirit should animate our lives and help us to understand and apply the spirit of the law. A lawyer had asked Jesus about how to have eternal life and Jesus had commended him on his answer. “Love the Lord God and your neighbour. From Matthew’s similar account we understand that that love involved keeping God’s commandments. But the lawyer’s motivation was not quite right. A wrong spirit of self-justification motivated him to query, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus in recounting the parable of the Samaritan answers the question of how to love your neighbour. He also dealt a blow to the superficiality of the religious, both priest and levite, who would ignore someone in need. And, then Jesus put a twist on the tale by having a Samaritan as the true neighbour who showed the injured man mercy. A hypocritical spirit can never truly fulfill God’s commandments.
Overcome the Spirit of the World
History has seen many historical animosities between “Christians” but this is just a testimony to the fact that they were not motivated by the right spirit. Caught up in the worldly spirit of their era Catholics persecuted and killed Protestants, and Protestants executed fellow Protestants like Servetus on accusations of blasphemy. They were certainly not following in Jesus footsteps. They were of the wrong spirit just like James and John who had wanted to incinerate the inhospitable Samaritans. God calls his people to worship in Spirit and truth. There is an ongoing battle between the fleshly spirit and the spirit of truth. God is calling his people to overcome the spirit of the world through the spirit of God by putting on the mind of Christ. So what spirit motivates you?
Hypocrisy or Unfeigned Faith